Eugene: X marks the spot
In recent years, fashion collaborations have become a beast, one not that different from the mythical Hydra of Lerna—when one collaboration ends its run, two or more will take its place. While Hercules might have successfully slayed the Hydra, collaborations within the fashion industry do not seem to be slowing anytime soon.
Limited-edition collaborations aren’t a new fad, but the floodgates truly opened after the massive commercial and marketing success of Louis Vuitton x Supreme collection. That success story has put the luxury fashion market on notice.
But don’t just take my word for it. At the time of writing this piece, there are already more collaborations being announced than there are days in the year. I have been told to keep the piece to a succinct 600-word limit, so instead of listing them all, here are some of the highlights: Moncler just announced a new line-up of designers working on the Genius project; Fendi presented a nylon version of the iconic baguette bag for men in collaboration with Japanese luggage maker Porter; and Kim Jones’s frequent collaborator at Dior Men, Yoon from Ambush, will be launching two capsule collections with Gentle Monster and Rimowa.
The success of a fashion collaboration goes much deeper than its ability to generate headlines and revenue. Take for example H&M’s collaborations with designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela and Moschino, as well as Uniqlo’s collaborations with JW Anderson, Jill Sanders and Christophe Lemaire; who is currently running the brand’s R&D lab in Paris, whose designs cumulate in the Uniqlo U line.
The juxtaposition between high and fast fashion has worked out to be beneficial for both parties—designers are able to reach a wider range of people whom they would not have been able to with their own label, while the fast fashion labels receive a healthy dose of credibility, all while generating massive PR buzz around both brands. In this era of information overload, the buzz of a limited-edition collaboration helps to separate it from the pack.
Collaborations provide the opportunity for designers to learn from each other and express their creativity in different mediums to create products that are genuinely exciting.
Obvious savvy business decision aside, the reason why I am all for collaboration, and the main draw of collaborations, is the opportunity for designers to learn from each other and express their creativity in different mediums to create products that are genuinely exciting.
Samuel Ross is a designer who is obsessed with fabric innovation and unconventional pattern cutting. His collaborations with Oakley and Nike gives him the chance to use the brands’ archives and technologies to push the limits of his creativity and fabrication to create new and exciting products.
Designers like Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, Craig Green and the others who are working with Moncler for its Genius project will get access and insights into the makings of one the best quality down jackets in the world, and express their work through a medium that they would otherwise have little contact with.
More than just clothes and sneakers, collaborations also allow designers to cross into other creative outlets like homeware design. Case in point: what Craig Green, Virgil Abloh and John Elliott are doing with Swedish furniture maker, Ikea. The collaboration sees them creating stunning rugs as well as other pieces like cabinets, chairs and tables.
From time to time, you will see collaborations where it’s just a slight tweak of the colourway and slapping the logo on a product. I am still pissed off with Raf Simons’ take on Adidas’ iconic Stan Smith, where he adds an array of colourways, rearranges the dots into an ‘R’, and charges three times the price of the original. The true beauty of collaboration lies in the push and pull of different creative opinions, boundaries and limitations, but the joy is in discovering them and breaking through to create a well-thought-out product.
In the words of Kawakubo: "We’re sharing the space, but no one is losing their identity. If anything, what each of us does is somehow accentuated. The result can only be positive."